Leave the bear alone

In regard to the controversy over the proposed Nevada bear hunt set to being Aug. 20:

I am not against hunting. I grew up in hunting communities and have many hunting friends and acquaintances who I admire.

But thousands of people are involved in an organized effort to stop this hunt. Several members of the No Bear Hunt NV and BEAR League organizations attended the board meetings in December and February and spoke out eloquently, intelligently and passionately against this hunt.

I can see that the state wildlife commissioners have a difficult job and, as is typical of any public position, they are not going to please all the people, all the time. I have respect for the chairman who conducted the meeting efficiently and decorously and for some of the board members who made valuable contributions.

Carl Lackey, NDOW wildlife biologist, presented his report on the bear population in Nevada and it was concluded that the estimated population of 200-300 bears can sustain a limited hunt -- 45 tags have been awarded, with an expected success rate of 20, including a maximum of six females.

The hunt originated because a group of hunters approached the commission and requested one. The commissioners stated over the course of the meetings it was not about money, it's not about population control, it's not about safety, it will not solve the "nuisance" bear problem, it will not curtail bear-human encounters -- the single purpose of this hunt is to provide a small group of hunters with the chance to shoot a bear.

Though I agree that our bear population, small as it is, could probably sustain a limited hunt, there are several things about which we should be very concerned.

First of all, this commission, appointed by the governor, approved this hunt despite overwhelming opposition. Nobearhuntnv.org has instigated a signature drive protesting the hunt. To date, 10,000 signatures have been collected, and the campaign continues. The tireless and cheerful signature collectors indicate that the vast majority of the people approached oppose the hunt. Furthermore, 98 percent of the 3,000 people who wrote to NDOW regarding this matter oppose the hunt. It's almost inconceivable that the commission passed this, isn't it?

Last year, 19,244 hunting licenses were issued to Nevada residents. If we look at that as a percentage of Nevada's population (2.7 million), that is fewer than 1 percent. Less than 1,200 people applied for a bear tag. This hunt is to satisfy fewer than 1 percent of our population. Does anyone smell a rat?

I'm not trying to imply that fewer than 1 percent of our population are hunters or that 99 percent of the population opposes the hunt. This figure simply represents the percentage of the population that held a Nevada hunting license in 2010.

Every state in the West has a black bear hunt, including Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, California, Arizona and New Mexico. Nevada has the smallest population of black bear. Utah estimates their bear population to be about 1,500, New Mexico 6,000. The other states for which I was able to find population data number in the tens of thousands. Given that every neighboring state holds a black bear hunt, there is ample opportunity for hunters so inclined to shoot a bear to do so -- somewhere else.

The use of hounds is to be allowed. A frightened bear gets chased up a tree and is held there until the fearless hunter comes along and shoots it. The use of dogs in a hunt results in the highest success rate, followed by baiting (not allowed in Nevada) and lastly, stalking. Ax the dog clause. It's inhumane, indecent and gives the "sportsman" an unfair advantage.

Black bears can live more than 20 years. Females produce their first litter at age 3 to 5. The cubs are born in late January, early February. They remain with their mother until they are 16 to 18 months old and den with her their second winter.

It is extremely difficult, if not impossible to tell males from females in a hunting situation. When this hunt begins, cubs will be 7 or 8 months old, at least 9 months from being independent. What will happen to the cub if his mother is shot? Please, hunters, visit this website: nobearhuntnv.org, scroll down and view the video of a sow and her cub. There is obviously an affectionate bond between mother and cub and I really can't understand how someone would want to destroy that.

Search your souls and get in touch with your feminine side. Men are supposed to want to protect females and their offspring, right?

People of Nevada, we need your help. I have spent hours pouring over the videos of the meetings to glean the facts presented here. If you are opposed to this hunt, your voice is needed. You can learn about and participate in the signature drive at nobearhuntnv.org. Download a petition, sign it and send it in. Better yet, collect signatures from others and send those in as well. Let's be the only Western state that lives in harmony with its bears. We can't let a small group of people tell us how to treat our wildlife. The people have spoken and we say no.

Toree Warfield writes from Incline Village.